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Paradox's avatar

If someone would have passed the James Randi one million dollar challenge do you think sceptics would still accept psi as a potentially real phenomenon?

Asked by Paradox (2570points) December 29th, 2010

This is a very straightforward question. Whether you’re a sceptic of psi or a believer feel free to give your honest opinion here. I was hoping for the sceptics here to weigh in on this one since there are so many on Fluther.

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37 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I do love those great hypothetical questions that go something like, “If the impossible happened, would that be possible?”

syz's avatar

It’s a moot point.

Math321's avatar

I doubt it. Anyone who doesn’t think PSI is real would chalk up any win to special effects, cheating, magnets, etc. I don’t think PSI exists, so I might not be an expert on it, but I know enough to know if something impossible seems to happen, it probably was a hoax.

Qingu's avatar

I would be curious.

I would be very interested to do further testing so as to determine the physical mechanism for the psychic powers, whether it’s a mutation in the brain that gives actual extrasensory perception or some kind of advanced technology.

I don’t think psychic powers are physically impossible; we can actually hook stuff up that uses brain waves directly as inputs. It’s just that every natural psychic, ever, has been a complete fraud—and the little we can accomplish with brainwaves requires very sophisticated technology.

Paradox's avatar

@CyanoticWasp ‘What if the impossible happened.’ Sounds like your mind’s already made up to what is considered inexplicable compared to what is unexplainable. And jellies accuse me of having my mind made up

@syz Why is my question considered a moot point? From being on so many pseudosceptical websites such as this one James Randi’s ingenius ’$1 miilion dollar challenge’ and the fact that no one has passed it has been brought up to my face more than a 1000 times at least. Isn’t this supposed to be an ‘open’ Q & A website that’s supposed to embrace different viewpoints? I could call many “creationism vs evolution” questions on a website full of atheists, pseudosceptics and sceptics ‘moot points’ as well.

@Math321 You actually said what I thought all along. The religion of dogmatic atheist pseudosceptical physicalism already has their minds made up as well. It is pretty obvious enough when they’ve ignored what real scientists have come up with when studying psychics (mediums) under laboratory conditions using the scientific method which is what a true sceptic does. Someone will challenge me to post those links.

@Qingu Obviously every ‘psychic’ is a fraud to you so like many other ‘jellies’ on here. A reasonable debate on this subject on a site like this is obviously a waste of time on my part. At least on Scepcop I can have a reasonable debate/discussion with sceptics on the topic of psi. You obviously have not researched this topic as good as I have. I suppose you never heard of Leslie Flint? Oh silly me I forgot he was a fraud too hence the ‘parlor trick showman.

I will remember this next time someone tries to use James Randi’s $1 million dollar ‘prize’ against me. The purpose of this question is to discuss exactly what I’ve asked above. Debating the issue of psi and other ‘ethereal’ concepts will be for another question on another thread that I plan on asking in the near future. I think these responses/and lack of have made my point so much stronger. Thank you ‘sceptics’.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Okay, let’s break it down. The question you asked, that is.

First of all, what exactly do you mean by “psi”? Presuming that you mean the abbreviation to stand for “parapsychology”, still, what does that mean to you? ‘Remote viewing’? ‘Extra-sensory perception’ (whatever that means)? ‘Psychokinesis’? Are there other alleged manifestations of psi / parapsychology you want to list?

@Qingu mentioned ‘psychic powers’. I don’t know if something like ‘mind reading’ is included in the field of psi or not. Is it?

So first you need to define terms – if you’re serious about having a ‘serious discussion’.

And then you need to write an intelligible question. You asked, literally, if “sceptics would still accept psi as a potentially real phenomenon” which is a literally silly question, because skeptics reject psi.

Finally, you also specifically requested skeptics to respond to the question, and then got all bent out of shape when… we actually did that.

Next question. Please try to keep in mind that for many of us, words have actual meaning.

Qingu's avatar

I had to google Leslie Flint… apparently he is the greatest psychic medium of our time. Wow.

Since you are so educated on this topic, @Paradox, could you explain how this stuff works? I am but a layman but it seems like Flint is using torsion fields to modulate the wavefunction emanating from at least three, perhaps four, of the eight afterlife dimensions. Is this how “direct voice” works?

Math321's avatar

Afterlife dimensions? PUH-LEEZE. That’s as stupid as “quantum healing”.

And torsion fields are also fake science using quantum mechanics as the magic key to PSI, ESP, and other beliefs.

Quantum entanglement wikipedia article excerpt:

…When each of the particles in the entangled pair is measured in the same way, the results of their spin measurement will be correlated. Measuring one member of the pair tells you what the spin of the other member is without actually measuring its spin.

It’s just a cool use of quantum physics, NOT something you can do with your head!

Qingu's avatar

You can’t prove that psychic torsion fields and afterlife dimensions don’t exist.

Math321's avatar

I’m pretty sure I just did.

Qingu's avatar

Actually, you didn’t… because you can’t prove a negative… likewise you can’t prove there is not a tiny little teapot orbiting Alpha Centauri. Nevertheless, we would still say that someone making the claim that there is such a teapot is full of shit. :)

Math321's avatar

Fair enough.

Paradox's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Psi has several meanings (my fault) but I was referring to the definition of psi which is a more modern term for ‘paranormal’. However I would have assumed (I assumed wrong I guess) that most people familiar with James Randi would have known I wasn’t referring to the mathematical definition of psi or pounds ‘per square inch’.

You also have said that my question was intelligible because ‘sceptics’ reject anything paranormal related. First of all if you find my question ridiculous then don’t respond, it’s really that simple. I see much ‘worse’ questions than mine and I don’t see the smartass responses. It must be me. If you’re not going to respond to my questions and instead hurl your immature insults to me than I’m going to start flagging your responses. It has nothing to do with an opposing viewpoint (I expected to be opposed) but you don’t even attempt to be civil and frankly I’m starting to tire of you. I don’t think you would appreciate it if I did that to you in your threads now would you?

Actually I had a very good reason to ask this question because a true sceptic is supposed to have doubt until proven otherwise when presented with enough evidence. No one passing the James Randi challenge is one of the most common types of responses the ‘sceptics’ bring up when debating them. It was a question I’ve asked out of curiosity. Of course I’m going to ask questions like this because I’m into investigating alot of paranormal phenomenon what do you expect? People who ask questions usually already have their own opinions and will debate an opposing viewpoint. This was the whole reason I’ve asked this and put it in social to leave it open for debate. Of course I’m going to debate an opposing viewpoint what do you expect? I’ve responded to many threads with an opposing viewpoint and when the OP disagrees with my responses they challenge me on it but at least I answer the dam questions instead of attacking the question itself. Something you should learn to do.

Math321's avatar

Paradox said:

However I would have assumed (I assumed wrong I guess) that most people familiar with James Randi would have known I wasn’t referring to the mathematical definition of psi or pounds ‘per square inch’.

Above emphasis mine. Anywho…
@Paradox

Not very many people are familiar with James Randi.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Paradox

When you point out where I have been provocatively rude, impolite, insulting or uncivil in some other way toward you then I’ll apologize, and mean it. Until then, you seem to be still carrying some chip on your shoulder, apparently, from the first question of yours that I answered some months ago (and I’ve avoided responding to some of your other less than stellar posts since then for that reason – today I just said the hell with it, and jumped in).

If you’d take more care in your writing then I wouldn’t have so much to respond to:
– I said that your question was UNintelligible, not intelligible. Polar opposite meanings.
– You might feel flattered that I responded to your question instead of ‘worse’ ones (okay, maybe not), because ‘worse’ questions make no sense at all. At least yours made sense, in a sort of paranormal way.
– You’re welcome to respond to any of my (rare) questions and more prolific answers in any way that seems appropriate to you. You have an open invitation to do so, in fact. I presume the same for myself regardless of your feeling in the matter.

It may be that you don’t comprehend what “a skeptic” does when presented with “evidence”. A skeptic will attack the ‘evidence’ that he’s given with every tool he has: check the methodology used to collect and record it, check the instruments and qualifications to use those instruments of the ones doing the collection, check the conclusions against the claims, and so forth. Sometimes we even have to attack the honesty of the ones making the claims and presenting the ‘evidence’. (I strongly recommend reading Richard Feynman’s essay / commencement speech on Cargo Cult Science.) And then, after the experimental setup is checked fore and aft and top to bottom, then he’ll expect to be able to experimentally recreate the conditions and obtain comparable data leading to a similar conclusion of ‘proven-ness’. You don’t just pile up ‘evidence’ in front of a skeptic and figure, “Well, we proved that one, I guess.”

You made another claim that I’m going to take issue with: that ”[p]eople who ask questions usually already have their own opinions”. I don’t know what led you to make that assertion, but I don’t believe that, either. Do you want to debate it, or offer proof? Or would you just like to continue to assert it without any proof, thinking that “it doesn’t matter, since it’s my belief and can’t be disproven?”)

Attacks on stupid questions are valid. If you identify too closely with a stupid question, I can’t help that. It’s not my intent to belittle you or call you names when I say “that’s a stupid question”. I know it feels that way; I’m human too, believe it or not.

If you would take more care in reading and writing and stop carrying that chip on your shoulder, then we wouldn’t have these go-rounds.

Math321's avatar

@CyanoticWasp

Try a PM. It’s more direct, it’s private (so it doesn’t seem like an attack on reputation), and Paradox will be more likely to read it.

@Paradox

I have no idea what’s going on here, but please sort it out. I don’t like people fighting over Internet.

@CyanoticWasp and @Paradox

Watch this, it’ll make you both feel better. Really. It works. Try it. Now. Stop reading and click on the Youtube link. Now. I said now. Please. Just try it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOFjFD49rGY

Paradox's avatar

@CyanoticWasp That is what is called a ‘pseudosceptic’.

@Math321 I have to leave now maybe tonight I will watch it before I go to bed. I need to eat.

Math321's avatar

CyanoticWasp, don’t react to Paradox, respond.

Math321's avatar

Because I see you crafting an answer.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Well, @Math321, you tried. Personally, I like this better (unless you had presented a catchier tune, perhaps).

And come on, I’m a cranky old man and I know that – revel in it, to a point – but I don’t usually ‘react’; my reflexes just aren’t that good any more.

@Paradox it’s too bad that Mr. Truzzi isn’t around to argue with, because I’d take issue with the incomplete definition of pseudoskeptic presented in Wikipedia as a direct quote from him. If someone makes claims regarding the veracity of a claim and doesn’t then prove his own claim, then he’s as guilty as someone making the unverified claim in the first place, but disproving false claims is what ‘skepticism’ is all about.

Math321's avatar

Paradox, I thought you were going. Why are you crafting a response?

Math321's avatar

Must be a long answer if you’re typing this long. Aren’t you going to bed for the night?

Paradox's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Is there any evidence Leslie Flint’s physical mediumship is a ‘false claim’? How much more proof could be given to a sceptic than Leslie Flint’s outstanding mediumship? The guy was amazing. Fraud in this case would be opposing Occams Razor. The sceptics aren’t familiar with the Scole reports, Sir William Crookes experiments, Sir Oliver Lodges experiments and many more. I think the issue is at least deserving of a second look don’t you?

@Math321 Sush I’m going now, really.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t know the first thing about Leslie Flint. I see what’s on his website, and his claim to have been “the most tested” medium around. If that is so, then I’m surprised that the website doesn’t have any links to bolster the claim.

My own long-established skepticism leads me to conclude that I don’t have the time or interest to debunk all of the liars, frauds and cheats out there. If someone else (with qualifications and independence that I can trust to check accurately and conclude reasonably) has made these tests and arrived at the conclusion that he’s the real deal (or anyone else is), then that’s where I’ll start my own research to decide whether or not to consider that there may be some truth in it.

When he won’t even put up those links on his website, then I’m forced to conclude that he’s just furthering a big lie.

crisw's avatar

@Paradox

I had also not heard of Leslie Flint. But I did a bit of research and I am not impressed.

First of all, he’s dead. Therefore, there’s absolutely no way to go back and test his supposed “powers.”

Second of all, the “testing” that was done on him doesn’t seem to resemble standard double-blind testing like we would use today. However, it’s difficult to judge this accurately because the results of the tests aren’t published.

The above-cited webpage makes some very good points-
“1) Every single one of the speakers on the audio files has an English accent. Even Bessie, the stereotypical cotton picker from Alabama. Her accent fluctuates from a lame attempt at an American south accent to British cockney to Scottish. Listen (it will come on automatically) to her recording and see if you don’t agree.

2) Chopin speaks perfect English. He was Polish, and ostensibly only visited England a few times.

3)The speakers all have the same basic speech pattern, with little to no deviation between them. They all talk about the same stuff, about how wonderful it is on “their side.” They all use the same terminology, no matter what time period or part of the world. Also, the English of 18th Century England is very different from the English of the 20th century, which is something that obviously has slipped Elizabeth Fry’s mind. ”

It’s also been pointed out that his supposed “Gandhi” sounded nothing like Gandhi and that much of the testing was done in the dark because light would have a destructive effect on ectoplasm.

As far as the experiments you mention:

First of all, it doesn’t look like most of the experiments focused on whether he was accurately conveying “voices of the dead,” but on how he was doing it. This is a matter of physiology, not spirituality, and any talented ventriloquist might be able to do the same things.

As far as I can determine, Sir Oliver Lodge didn’t do any experiments on Flint; he was supposedly “channeled” by him.

Sir William Crookes died when Flint was 8. Again, Flint only “channeled” him.

The “Scole experiment” was debunked very well by Brian Dunning.:
“Unfortunately, the Scole Experiment was tainted by profound investigative failings. In short, the investigators imposed little or no controls or restrictions upon the mediums, and at the same time, agreed to all of the restrictions imposed by the mediums. The mediums were in control of the seances, not the investigators. What the Scole Report authors describe as a scientific investigation of the phenomena, was in fact (by any reasonable interpretation of the scientific method) hampered by a set of rules which explicitly prevented any scientific investigation of the phenomena.”

As far as I can tell, they also didn’t look at Leslie Flint.

So none of your three sources give any credence to any ideas that Flint was anything other than a very talented ventriloquist.

Paradox's avatar

@crisw There are some expected reasons why thoses voices would sound different. It has to do with the ecoplasm coming from the direct voice medium being used as the ‘voicebox’. This is complicated because of the different dimensions with finer grained atoms than our own. I never knew Leslie Flint was a very talented ventriloquist but he had his mouth plastered shut. I was hoping to save this argument for another thread.

Actually I never provided links here. When I was speaking of Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge I was talking about how they were sent in by their sceptical peers (since these scientists were well more than enough qualified and with Crookes being a hardcore sceptic himself) and were expected to expose the physical mediums as frauds to the public. Instead after Crookes own experiements (he even purchase his own materials such as musical instruments to avoid fraud) and when Crookes actually verified the psychic phenomena as real he was pretty much derailed by his peers and nasty rumors were spread about him such as a love affair with the physical medium herself. Lodges acheivments were severly downplayed as well because of himself verifying psi as real effects. Again I’m getting off topic here.

I will try to get back to the question I originally asked. How would you react if someone actually would pass James Randi’s or any of the number of other sceptics paranormal challenges out there that offer a money prize? There are several other challenges besides Randi’s that I was aware of.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Paradox

You seriously have no idea how ridiculous that sounds? “complicated because of the different dimensions with finer grained atoms than our own” ? What, specifically, do you know about the difference between ‘ectoplasmic’ atoms and the ones that make up the world that the rest of us live in?

Math321's avatar

And how would you go about measuring the size of atoms from another dimension? Honestly, do you know how ridiculous that is?

crisw's avatar

@Paradox

You brought up Flint and claimed that he was genuine. Now that we’ve presented evidence that he was nothing more than a talented fraud, you want to change the subject.

Paradox's avatar

@crisw Actually I wanted to thank you for providing that link to skeptoid. I’ll admit that I’m not very familiar with the Scole experiments and I took them in blind faith. I actually read about many topics on skeptoid but I missed that one. I actually appreciate your sceptism for it allows me to evaluate my own position better and you give me very detailed responses instead of insulting me and I very much appreciate you for that and I’m glad you’re on Fluther. You’ve been one of the nicer sceptics.

Math321's avatar

@Paradox

So what is your position on ESP and the like now? Do you:

A. Still think it exists, despite the debunking of your main source and about a Graham’s number reasons not to believe it, or

B. Have come to your senses and now know that ESP is fake, false, and frankly, fundementally flawed?

Paradox's avatar

@Math321 No, not even close. I just appreciated the fact she actually gave me a detailed response on her position. There are many holes in her arguments about Leslie Flint but I don’t want to get too far off topic here again from what I’ve originally asked.

I also don’t think you should be making comments such as “did you come to your senses” when you know so little about what I’ve been talking about. At least give a reason for your own assumptions before making ridiculous comments such as that. Gee I can make the same statement but reverse it, “did you come to your senses yet and accept psi as real effects”? See where I’m getting at?

Math321's avatar

At least give a reason for your own assumptions before making ridiculous comments such as that.

I did give a reason. Your main source was debunked and there have been many reasons not to believe in PSI pointed out, such as:

Every single one of the speakers on the audio files has an English accent. Even Bessie, the stereotypical cotton picker from Alabama. Her accent fluctuates from a lame attempt at an American south accent to British cockney to Scottish.

And your explanation was:

There are some expected reasons why thoses voices would sound different. It has to do with the ecoplasm coming from the direct voice medium being used as the ‘voicebox’. This is complicated because of the different dimensions with finer grained atoms than our own.

Which we’ve pointed out is ridiculous like so:

Complicated because of the different dimensions with finer grained atoms than our own? What, specifically, do you know about the difference between ‘ectoplasmic’ atoms and the ones that make up the world that the rest of us live in? And how would you go about measuring the size of atoms from another dimension? Honestly, do you know how ridiculous that is?

That not good enough for you? How about this?

I don’t know the first thing about Leslie Flint. I see what’s on his website, and his claim to have been “the most tested” medium around. If that is so, then I’m surprised that the website doesn’t have any links to bolster the claim. When he won’t even put up those links on his website, then I’m forced to conclude that he’s just furthering a big lie.

Paradox's avatar

@Math321 You’re arguing against the fact that most of the people that attended his seances’ did indeed hear different voices. There were many people who vividly remember hearing their deceased loved ones distinctive voices and answer detailed facts that only the people who were living could have known such as in the case of the parents who lost their 16 year old son to cancer. There are many counterfeit recordings out there as well. Leslie Flint has been deceased since 1994.

As far as everything else I’ve mentioned this is a very complicated subject and there is no way I could give you an answer on Fluther in a single post. I would be willing to provide the information to you myself if you’re willing to look at it in sceptical but constructive way to form your own reasonable opinion instead of taking everybody else’s word for it.

Again (I’m not sure why this is so diificult for many to comprehend), I originally asked
“If someone would have passed the James Randi one million dollar challenge do you think sceptics would still accept psi as a potentially real phenomenon? Yet again I have to explain this: I asked this question because sceptics always point out in their arguments against anything paranormal related that no one has passed Randi’s challenge. So would this make a difference in their opinions (for at least each individual sceptic answering this question) about claims of the paranormal if someone did manage to pass the challenge on at least some level?

Math321's avatar

No, it wouldn’t.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There are hundreds of arguments against anything paranormal and many come to mind (as I am a skeptic) before the I even remember the silly challenge. So, not much would change for me even if I did read randomly that someone passed it – I’d need to be convinced.

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